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Managing Yourself
Blackjack Professor
by Lance Humble

In Blackjack, where the steady application of your skills can result in consistent winnings, controlling your emotions becomes all-important. Many Players lose because they become emotionally involved in the game. When they are losing, they start steaming and begin to chase their losses. The problem with chasing your losses is that they will catch you before you catch them. Your hormones won’t help you win money at the table, your head will.

The best way to quit chasing losses is to play like someone I saw once on a junket at the Hilton. I was playing alone when a man in a beige suit, funny red hair, and reddish sunglasses came up to play. Sitting down he dumped a large pile of chips on the betting square. The dealer straightened out the chips and dealt out our hands. Suddenly I realized it was Redd Foxx. Foxx looked at his cards, took another, and stood. I also stood and then watched the dealer draw to a 21. All Foxx said was a loud, “Sheeeit!” and walked away. Now, that’s the smart way to gamble: he lost and left.

There is a good technique you can learn to help control yourself. Allow the emotional arousal to act as the signal for you to quit! You must pay attention to your emotions. As soon as you feel yourself getting emotionally aroused, stop playing! Be like the basketball coach who calls a time out when the team is getting blown out. In the sports world, this is called “settling down.” In gambling it is called “keeping your money.”

You may get your emotional signal in a variety of ways. It could be physical—a tenseness in your stomach, chest, face, throat, or hands—or mental, with feelings of dread, apprehension, and panic. My signal is impatience. I want the dealer to get the cards out faster so I can play more hands and win my losses back. This type of feeling will vary from person to person. It will only take you a few sessions of paying attention to your emotional state to learn how and where to locate your emotional signal. However, once mastered it will save you thousands of dollars in your gambling career.

It is imperative also to have a “stop-loss” limit to control the tendency to chase losses. I like to quit after losing three or four big bets in a row. You may want a different limit for yourself, but you must have one! Know exactly how much you will allow yourself to lose before leaving the playing session.

That said, never quit playing if you are no matter how bad the conditions or your emotional state! If a drunk sits down beside you and starts swearing, put up with him if you are winning. If the dealer begins to hide the cards on you so you can’t track them, keep playing if you are winning. The name of the game is to win money. Take it under any and all conditions. However, as soon as you hit your “stop-loss” limit, take your money and leave no matter how good the conditions appear to be.

Appearances can be deceiving. It’s not easy to maintain emotional control when the dealer keeps taking your hard-earned money out of the betting square and never puts any back. It’s not easy to watch a stack of plastic chips disappear with detached logic. It’s even harder to pull out a wallet or purse without a twinge of emotional reaction and cash more folding green in order to stay in the game. But if you can learn to stop playing when these difficulties begin to affect your judgment, then you will have learned a major money-saving skill without having to memorize a single strategy. You will have learned not to beat yourself!

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